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Farm Radio Weekly is a news and information service for rural radio broadcasters in sub-Saharan Africa. It is published by Farm Radio International.

Issue #29

Hello to all!

We are pleased to welcome many new African subscribers this week! Three are from Ghana: Samuel Nii Quarcoo from the farmers’ organization Quarcoo Initiatives Ltd., Justice Kofi Sakutey from the Ghana Broadcasting Corporation, and John Oheneba Konadu from the Bowiri Rural Radio Farmers Forum. We also welcome Tumaini Mwailenge from Faraja Development Trust in Tanzania, Ngotcho Tenke Vincent Marie from the NGO OVA in Cameroon, Pierre Kabwayintumba from the NGO Assistance pour le Développement Humain in the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Sagno Ezechiel from Les Amis de David in Guinea.

It seems that you can’t look at the news these days without seeing a story related to the high cost of food or the high cost of fuel. This week, we offer two stories that relate to both. Biofuels remain a hot topic because many people view fuel crops as a solution to dependence on fossil fuels, but the use of agricultural lands to produce fuel has been blamed, in part, for rising food prices and increased hunger. From Kenya, we report on a controversial plan to grow sugarcane for both ethanol and sugar on 20,000 hectares of coastal wetlands – and find out why local pastoralists say the plan threatens their livelihoods. We also have a story about farmers in different parts of the continent using draught power to increase food production without relying on tractors.

For your information, there will be no new FRW next week. We are taking a one-week publishing break and will return to your e-mail inboxes on Monday, July 28. In the meantime, why not visit the FRW website (http://farmradio.org/english/) and look through some past issues? Or browse through the Farm Radio International script archive at: http://farmradio.org/english/radio-scripts/.

Happy reading!

-The Farm Radio Weekly Team

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In this week’s Farm Radio Weekly:

African Farm News in Review

1. Kenya: Herders oppose controversial sugarcane project (The Nation, various other sources)

2. Africa: High food, fuel costs make draught power more appealing (New Era, The Namibian, UN Food and Agriculture Organization, New Agriculturalist)

Upcoming Events

July 31, 2008: Deadline to apply for sponsorship to “Better Science Reporting” Workshop

Radio Resource Bank

Guides for online audio

Farm Radio Action

Here’s your chance to shape the future of FRW!

Farm Radio Script of the Week

Appropriate farming tools for African women farmers

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1. Kenya: Herders oppose controversial sugarcane project (The Nation, various other sources)

Pastoralist leaders from Kenya’s Tana River Delta area are speaking out against a controversial sugarcane project, saying it would destroy their dry season pasturelands.

Kenya’s environmental authority recently approved a plan to grow sugarcane on 20,000 hectares of coastal wetlands. The plan is a joint project of the Mumias Sugar Company and the Tana and Athi Rivers Development Authority. It is supported by the Kenyan government, but opposed by local and international environmental groups, as well as local herders. The herders say that the plan threatens their livelihoods.

At a recent meeting with government officials, local leaders said that pastoralists should be allowed to maintain their traditional grazing lands. The government has proposed to move herders to an area known as Galana ranch for the dry season. But pastoralist representatives say this isn’t an option. Local councilor Abaloni Racha said the proposed grazing area is infested with tsetse flies.

Government representatives, meanwhile, attempted to sell the community on the planned project. According to the production plan, the sugarcane project will create 20,000 jobs. Regional Development Minister Fred Gumo said it was time for locals to embrace change and welcome development.

The government maintains that local communities will benefit from the project, not only from the jobs created, but because better roads and other infrastructure will be built. Government spokespeople also maintain that the project will make Kenya a net exporter of sugar and be an important foreign exchange earner.

Sugarcane grown through the project would be processed into sugar, as well as ethanol. Ethanol is one of the biofuels hotly debated at forums such as the UN Food and Agriculture Organization’s recent summit on the food crisis. Biofuels have been promoted as a clean-burning alternative to fossil fuels, but many say that growing crops for biofuel production threatens global food security.

Environmental groups have also been vocal in their opposition to the sugarcane project. A coalition of conservation organizations known as Nature Kenya has led the environmental opposition, noting that the Tana River Delta is home to more than 350 species of birds, lions, elephants, rare sharks, and reptiles. They say the project would destroy vital breeding grounds for migratory waterbirds and fish.

Environmental lobbyists also suggest that, by displacing pastoralists, the project would have a negative impact on other lands. They argue that if herders can no longer graze their cattle in the delta, they will use other pasturelands more intensively, leading to land degradation.
Click here to see the notes to broadcasters on controversial sugarcane project

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2. Africa: High food, fuel costs make draught power more appealing (New Era, The Namibian, UN Food and Agriculture Organization, New Agriculturalist)

Tjizembua Mbazuvara used to raise only cattle on his farm in eastern Namibia. Like many Namibian farmers, he focused his efforts on growing beef cattle for the local auction. But that was before he realized that he wasn’t making the most out of his farm, or his animals.

One day, while visiting his in-laws’ farm, he noticed maize meal and beans stored in their warehouse. It was feed they had grown on their farm for their animals. From that point forward, Mr. Mbazuvara was convinced that he should start growing crops to feed his family and his cattle. The bonus, he soon discovered, was that his animals could help him cultivate his fields.

Now that food prices are, in Mr. Mbazuvara’s words, “hitting the roof,” he’s encouraging others in his neighbourhood to start growing their own food. After attending an intensive draught power training program, he is about to formally begin training other farmers to cultivate their land with the help of animals.

Eliaser Ambata is Regional Coordinator of Namibia’s Draught Animal Power Acceleration Programme. He says that rising fuel prices have made tractors too expensive to operate. Demand for training in the use of draught power is growing.

Draught power is also becoming more popular in Ghana. Tractors were introduced to Ghana’s cotton producing regions in the 1960s and 1970s. But in recent years, they have fallen into disuse. The UN Food and Agriculture Organization studied some of the reasons that tractors became less popular. They are expensive to buy, maintain, and operate, and farmers found they weren’t getting a good enough return on their investment. At the same time, the migration of young people to cities makes it harder to find day labour. Draught power has filled the gap.

According to New Agriculturalist magazine, millions of donkeys are being used in parts of West Africa where donkeys had not been used before. Farmers find donkeys cheap, easy to manage, and adaptable to arid conditions. Other farmers are choosing animals such as cows that serve two purposes – providing draught power as well as milk and meat.

Mr. Mbazuvara finds that raising cattle and growing crops has improved his income and his food security. When the local cattle auction was temporarily closed, he was able to sell beans to cover his daughter’s school fees. He encourages other farmers to store both feed and food crops for a full year. In this way, they can be prepared in case of a poor harvest.
Click here to see the notes to broadcasters on draught power

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Notes to broadcasters on controversial sugarcane project:

Large-scale development projects are frequently at odds with environmental interests, and sometimes clash with traditional land use. In the case of the 20,000-hectare sugarcane plantation planned by the Mumias Sugar Company and the Tana and Athi Rivers Development Authority, a number of issues made the project particularly controversial. Since Farm Radio Weekly focuses on small scale farmers, we concentrated on the concerns of herders who use the Tana River Delta for dry season grazing.

However, the most organized and vocal opponents of the project have been environmental groups. A coalition known as Nature Kenya commissioned a report to challenge the cost/benefit analysis used to justify the project. While proponents maintain that the project will create 20,000 jobs and build local infrastructure, the Nature Kenya report argues that developers overestimated profits, ignored fees for water use and pollution, and disregarded loss of income from wildlife tourists.

The fact that the project will produce both sugar and the biofuel ethanol has been another point of contention. The production of crops for biofuel has become increasingly controversial. While some farmers hope to collect good profits by selling crops for biofuel production, opponents fear that projects such as the sugarcane plantation in the Tana River Delta threaten food production and livelihoods.

To read more about the planned Tana River Delta sugarcane plantation, and the controversy that surrounds it, visit:
– Tana and Athi Rivers Development Authority: http://www.regional-dev.go.ke/tarda/history.htm
-National Environment Management Authority of Kenya: http://www.nema.go.ke/about.html
-Study commissioned by Nature Kenya on the economic valuation of the project: http://www.rspb.org.uk/Images/tana_tcm9-188706.pdf
-Editorial published by Business Daily in Nairobi, by Paul Matiku, Executive Director of Nature Kenya: http://www.bdafrica.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=8584&Itemid=5821

You may also wish to refer to these past Farm Radio Weekly articles, which look at how some farmers and farmers’ groups have viewed the demand for biofuels:
“The promise and potential perils of biofuels” (Issue#3, December 2007)
“Campaign for biodiesel intensifies but farmers remain cautious” (Issue#7, January 2008)

Here are a couple of ideas for follow-up news stories in your area:
1) Pastoralists coping with change
-What challenges threaten traditional grazing grounds used by local herders (for example, land degradation, negotiating land use with neighbouring farmers, pastures overtaken by developers)?
-What strategies have the herders employed to maintain their livelihoods (for example, rehabilitating land, finding new pastures, negotiating with farmers or developers, seeking alternative income sources, improving animal health, etc)?
2) Farmers considering biofuel production
-What do farmers in your area think about selling crops for biofuel production?
-If a biofuel processing plant exists or is planned for your area, how do farmers who supply the plant plan to maintain their food security while also producing crops for the plant?
-Are there small companies or farmer groups in your area that produce biofuels for local use? What role does locally-produced biofuel play in local crop production?

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Notes to broadcasters on draught power:

It’s becoming well known that farmers have been hit hard by rising fuel prices. High fuel costs have made it more expensive to produce crops, by raising the price of chemical fertilizer, as well as other farm inputs and machinery that require transportation or that are made from petroleum products. They also raise the cost of transporting crops to market. In many cases, these elevated prices make it more difficult to for farmers to earn a living, even though they are able to sell food crops at high prices. This story shows that high fuel costs are encouraging farmers to use draught animal power instead of tractors. Rising food prices are also encouraging some livestock farmers to produce more of their own food, with the help of their animals.

The following articles describe additional trends in the use of draught animal power:
-“Trends in traction” by New Agriculturalist: http://www.new-agri.co.uk/03-4/focuson/focuson1.html
-“Draught animal power…an overview” by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization: http://www.fao.org/ag/ags/agse/chapterps1/chapterps1-e.htm

These Farm Radio International scripts look at the importance of adapting draught power attachments to suit the use, and the user:
“Smartly designed animal cart helps Sudanese farmer” (Package 80, Script 10, March 2007)
“Appropriate farming tools for African women farmers” (Package 82, Script 7, November 2007)

You may wish to explore the ways in which people in your area use draught power through a phone-in/text-in show or a locally-researched news story. Some questions to consider include:
-Which animals are commonly used for draught power in your area, and how are they used?
-What sorts of carts or cultivation attachments do locals use to make the most of draught power?
-What local resources are available to help farmers interested in experimenting with draught power, or learning to use draught power more efficiently?
-Have high fuel prices caused more farmers to consider draught power (as measured by farmers’ own reports or the reports of those who train or sell attachments to farmers)?
-Can you find farmers who can explain the many contributions made by draught animals, such as soil fertility and energy efficiency?

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July 31, 2008: Deadline to apply for sponsorship to “Better Science Reporting” Workshop

Ten fully-funded placements for radio and print journalists are available for an upcoming workshop on “Better Science Reporting.” WRENmedia will hold the workshop from October 4-9, in conjunction with the Institute for Tropical Agriculture’s conference, Banana 2008, in Mombasa, Kenya. Areas of training will include: content-gathering, news and feature writing, photography, and digital audio editing. During the conference, the media team will work together as a production house to produce print, radio, and online reporting on banana science, as well as individual pieces for their own readers/listeners.

Lazarus Laiser, a radio journalist with Radio Habari Maalum near Arusha, Tanzania, a Farm Radio International partner, attended a “Better Science Reporting” workshop in March of this year. He said, “This week has helped build relationships and friendships between the research community and the media. The participants have also learned we are an effective channel for them to convey messages to farmers and the wider public.”

For more information on applying for sponsorship to attend the “Better Science Reporting” conference, visit: http://www.banana2008.com/cms/details/conference.aspx?articleid=19&zoneid=1, or e-mail training2008@wrenmedia.co.uk.

To learn more about the Banana 2008 conference, “Banana and plantain in Africa: Harnessing international partnerships to increase research impact,” visit: http://www.banana2008.com/cms/details/index_details.aspx.

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Guides for online audio

Is your organization interested in providing audio content online? Online audio allows your organization to share programs with a wider audience and increases your organization’s profile. ItrainOnline provides links to a series of guides, tip sheets, and tutorials that can help prepare you to provide online audio or improve the quality of your online audio offerings. The guides cover producing and editing audio content, as well as various methods of audio streaming and podcasting. Links to all of the guides can be found on ItrainOnline’s website: http://www.itrainonline.org/itrainonline/english/radio.shtml#Web%20Radio%20-%20General.

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Here’s your chance to shape the future of FRW!

In the next week or two, FRW subscribers will receive a request to complete a short survey about our service. Since our goal is to support our subscribers in their work as radio broadcasters, we want to ensure that the stories and resources we provide are as useful as possible. The survey will ask questions such as: which sections of FRW do you use and how you use them, which news stories have been most relevant and interesting to your listeners, and what sorts of news and information would you like to see in future issues. Please stay tuned for this survey and take a moment to complete it when it arrives!

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Appropriate farming tools for African women farmers

This week’s news story on draught power mentioned that millions of donkeys are being used for draught power in parts of West Africa where they were never used before. Many of these donkeys are being used by women, because it is taboo in some cultures for women to use larger draught animals like oxen. Out script of the week looks at traditions regarding women and draught power use, and how they are changing. It features a discussion among fictionalized characters – a village elder, a woman farmer, a male farmer, and a blacksmith. The woman farmer explains how draught animals help her to save time and increase crop yields.

You can also view this script online at:

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